Class of 2013: Running to the Future

Published 9:32 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Columbia High School Graduating Class of 2013 relaxes before embarking on a new journey.(Contributed Photo/ Tierra Hill)

The Columbia High School Graduating Class of 2013 relaxes before embarking on a new journey.(Contributed Photo/ Tiera Hill)

Clad in athletic shoes, Demond McKenzie jogged in place.

The commencement speaker for the Columbia High School Graduating Class of 2013 had a message.

Mckenzie explained that during his years as track coach at Fuquay Varina High School he was reminded of routines that he would have team members engage in prior to and during the season. There were certain drills and exercises that the team performed in preparation for the track meets.

Students would often ask why they had to do the drills.

Mckenzie responded, “you will understand in due time why we do what we do.”

It was during these drills, that the team stretched certain muscles.

“It is what we did in preparation for the race. Similarly, you have just completed training and preparation for a race; the ultimate race. Allow me to introduce to you the Race of Life,” said Mckenzie.

Mckenzie explained that during races there are three commands runners will hear:

On your Mark! Get set. Go!


Upon hearing the “On Your Mark” command the runner moves to position on the track. He or she makes an intentional decision to show up. In the arena of sports, a team’s failure to show up automatically leads to a forfeiture of the game. In track, it leads to a disqualification.

Mckenzie explained that he was informed that all of the class of 2013 chose to attend their junior class trip to Washington, DC. All of them attended their senior awards banquet, and were recognized for something. Twenty four of twenty eight chose to attend their Baccalaureate service, an optional event planned and sponsored by the senior class.

“I challenge you to continue to show up. Make an intentional decision to be where you need to be,” said Mckenzie.

Mckenzie concluded his speech by alluding to the end of the race.


“At a time when you could have been encountering cramps and fatigue, you are able to overcome as a result of preparing and training for the race. We all will experience this, because it’s the Race of Life. No one is exempted,” said Mckenzie.

Mckenzie urged the students in spite of the challenge and hardships to keep moving forward, “You may have to reflect upon some of the encouraging words spoken by your parents, your friends or teachers. You may have to use the skills and lessons learned during the training phase to push through. You must endure until the end,” he said.

Mckenzie mentioned some facts about the 2013 class:

  • Over half of the class is graduating with a weighted GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Valedictorian graduating with 23 college credits plus 5 AP courses; *Salutatorian graduating with 36 college credits plus 4 AP courses; 10 of 28 students graduating with a full semester or more of college credits; 18 of 28 graduating with some college credits (those who chose to enroll in the Early College).

  • Three students are choosing to take advantage of the 5th year Early College option, one of whom is enrolled in 1st session college summer school at this time.

  • Students are planning to become engineers, attorneys, nurses, military officers, teachers, artists, and many other noble careers.

Mckenzie currently works as STEM Director at the NC New Schools, an organization dedicated to innovation in education throughout the state of North Carolina.
Valedictorian Shepherd Rawls and Salutatorian Amber Morris echoed some of Mckenzie’s ideas in their speeches.
“I want to thank my fellow seniors for sticking together and pushing themselves to reach this point. All of my experiences to this point have made me the person that I am today,” said Rawls.
Morris said she would miss her classmates.
“And I am thanking God that we made it,” she said.
The Columbia High School Class of 2013 includes:

Valedictorian: Shepherd Rawls
Salutatorian:Amber Morris
Eliza Nicole Basnight
Aaliyah Keyauna Blount
Mecca Nyree Bowser
Carrie Lynn Brickhouse
Zhane Tranettee Combs
Aaliyah Johnnell Daniels

Jessica Leigh Davenport
Jorge Ivan Duarte
Noah Cordray Estey
Daniel Garza Salazar
Cameron Thomas Harrell
Hillary Nicole Harrison
Kytara Breon Hassell
Michael Christopher Havemann
Karla Marlen Hernandez Becerra
Tiera Monae Hill
Kit Carson Kenny
Destiny Demetris Yyonee Marner
Amber Elise Morris
Jade Alise Morris
Shepherd Kijana Rawls
Tyler Scott Renfrow
Jordan Deric Sexton
Kyle Warren Smith
Joseph Waylone Spencer III
Justice Bianca Sykes
Arie Tylee Young